go to index page
websites of interest the writings of Bill Mousoulis the films of Bill Mousoulis go to home page
The writings of Bill Mousoulis

The 16th Athens International Film Festival

The crowds enter to see Australian filmmaker,
Ana Kokkinos’ Blessed at the Athens Film Festival.

Melbourne filmmaker and critic Bill Mousoulis reports from Athens.

Crisis?  What crisis?  Judging from the lavish after-party on the Opening Night of this year’s Athens Film Festival, where the wine flowed freely and the finger-food kept multiplying, the Greek cinema scene is alive and well!  Obviously appearances can be deceiving, but there is no doubt that Greek filmmakers at the moment are productive and up-beat.


The festival ran from September 15 to 26, and as usual attracted large crowds to most of the sessions.  It is a very popular festival with Athenians because it unspools over the pleasant late Summer period, and screens many audience-friendly films.  And it is the Greek films in particular that are eagerly anticipated and well-attended.  I in fact couldn’t get into a couple of the Greek sessions, no matter how hard I waved my press pass!


Apart from the six new Greek feature films the festival screened, there was also a screening of Melbourne ’s very own Ana Kokkinos’ last feature, Blessed, which was released in Australia late last year.  It is now getting a release in Greek cinemas next month, and Ana attended the festival to present her film and also do interviews for the upcoming release.


I am not a fan of Kokkinos’ work (she made the Alex Dimitriades film Head On, among other films), but I admire her intelligence as a person.  I had not seen Blessed last year, as I was in Greece at the time, so this was a virgin screening not only for the audience, but also for myself.  I was pleasantly surprised by the film: it still has her typical uninteresting TV style, but otherwise is a powerful portrait of several different families, the pain that lies within individual people.  Victoria Haralabidou, Frances O’Connor and Miranda Otto give extraordinary performances, and Kokkinos utilises editing and music in particular to achieve a very moving result.


Of the three Greek films I saw, Mesa sto Dasos (In the Woods, directed by Angelos Frantzis) was the bravest and the best.  Firstly, it’s an unusual film in that it was shot with a small, cheap camera, in fact a camera designed for still photos, and so the camerawork is soft and hazy, but also very intimate and tactile.  But the main interest of the film is its storyline, and its form.  The film begins with the story’s ending: three friends are burnt to death in a blazing car.  And so the “what will happen?” question is taken out of the film from the very start.  The rest of the film shows the three unusual characters interacting, and in a very particular context:  they have cut themselves off from the world, they live in the forest, in caves, in abandoned houses.  They are outsiders, and doomed.  The film’s style is intentionally quiet and minimal: the characters barely speak.  It reminded me of the more experimental films of American director Gus Van Sant, films such as Gerry and Last Days.  Frantzis clearly stamps himself as a director not afraid to have an “audience-unfriendly” style, and for this I applaud him.


A more normal film, in all kinds of ways, was 45 Tetragonika (45 m2, directed by Stratos Tzitzis).  In fact, it was very refreshing to see palpably “ordinary” things on the screen: the known Athenian streets, the apartment blocks, the everyday people walking around.  A film ostensibly about the crisis, it follows the plucky Christina (Efi Logginou, in an amazingly natural performance) as she tries to break away from her clinging mother and live in her own apartment.  We see her look for furniture, nurture an abandoned cat, and, crucially, work and work and work, to try to make ends meet.  Her independence, emotionally as well as financially, is a fight.  A simple film, but one that makes some nice observations about life in this current tough economic climate in Greece.


The third Greek film I saw was Tungsten (directed by Giorgos Georgopoulos), another film reflecting on the crisis in its subject matter, but this time in a high-energy, profane style.  Despite its zip and zap, and the presence of the great actor Vangelis Mourikis, I found it a dead film, devoid of any humanity or intelligence.


Now that some Greek films played in the Venice Film Festival recently, with actress Ariane Labed winning Best Actress for her performance in the film Attenberg, Greek cinema is looking up again …  in Melbourne, you will have a chance to see some recent Greek cinema in the upcoming Greek Film Festival, Oct 13 – 31.


© Bill Mousoulis 2010
This article first appeared in Neos Kosmos, 5 Oct, 2010. reference